Calgary, AB T2M 2R5
Open 7 days a week till 10pm – til 12am on Fri/Sat (hours have changed recently, please check) September 2008 re-visit post here Original post below:
No two palettes are ever really the same. When comparing personal preference on something as varied as Pho, there really is no true way of determining which bowl is better. It’s all a matter of what suits you best.
Pho Kim is located in an old house just off of Centre Street, on a narrow strip just north of Chinatown and downtown Calgary, in an area with a high concentration of Vietnamese restaurants. I was first made aware of it by some Vietnamese friends, who prefered their Pho Tai – one of the authentic quality tests of a Pho establishement, and the taro root bubble tea (complete unauthentic, Taiwanese in origin).
As far as I’ve found, all Vietnamese restaurants generally have one or two excellent dishes on their otherwise extensive menus. Rarely have a found an establishment that was capable of delivering a consistently solid menu, and certainly not in Calgary. While this is positive in the sense that every restaurant has a dish worth eating, it also means that many establishments require a fair amount of trial and error before you settle on a dish worth repeating. That trial and error may not always be worth the investment.
One of my own personal favorites, no matter how westernized it is, is Pho Sate. I use this as a key taste test for determining my favorite Vietnamese restaurants. The Pho Sate at Pho Kim is terrible. Watery, weak, topped with chili oil and peanuts, it lacks the body and complex flavours i expect out of a Pho Sate. While i look for the blend of spicy and sweet, their Sate reminds me of dirty dish water, covered up with some spicy and nutty notes. I find the Pho Tai branch of soups to be average, with most of the value coming from quantity over quality. While the spring rolls are ok, the Bun falls on the small side. Bun Bo Xue was definitely a decent bowl of soup, but one is not always in the mood for spaghetti noodles.
However, all is not lost. There is one dish at Pho Kim that is worth revisting time and time again – in fact, on a cold, grey, wet, or a slightly down day, i find myself there all the time asking for the same thing. It is the Special Beef Flank Spicy Soup – 17A. For $7.85, it is a large bowl of rich beef broth, with many large chunks of fatty flank, large carrots, onions, greens, and noodles. More similar to a Vietnamese stew than Pho, this soup carries heat, complexity, and a tremendous depth of flavour that lasts with you throughout the day. It is, what i currently consider, my favorite bowl of Vietnamese Soup in Calgary.
Considering the sheer volume of Vietnamese Pho restaurants in Calgary, it isn’t surprising if you regularly find yourself at different establishments from week to week. If you hate to waste a meal on something you dislike, it is important to find those key dishes that work for you at different establishments. If you ever find yourself at Pho Kim, try the 17A. It suits my preferences perfectly – it may suit yours as well.